Verifying Reasonable Accommodation and Modification Requests
Dear Health Care Provider or Qualified Individual:
Fair housing laws allow an individual who has a physical, mental or sensory disability to request that a housing provider grant him/her a reasonable accommodation or modification (a change in rules, policies, or practices; or a facility modification). Once a person has made a request, a housing provider may request verification from a qualified expert (a doctor, medical professional, or other qualified third party who, in their professional capacity, has knowledge about the person’s disability). The verification should state that the person is disabled, that the request is necessary, and related to the disability.
For the purposes of requesting a reasonable accommodation/modification in housing in Washington state, disability is defined as “the presence of a sensory, mental, or physical impairment that: (i) is medically cognizable or diagnosable or (ii) exists as a record or history or (iii) is perceived to exist whether or not it exists in fact.” Additionally, “a disability exists whether it is temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, mitigated or unmitigated…or whether or not it limits any other activity…”
The verification should include the following items:
- Qualification of person writing the verification letter.
- Nature of contact the professional has had with the person making the request.
- Statement that the client has an impairment that meets the state definition of disability.
- Effects of Impairment. Please describe how the impairment affects one or more major life activities. “Impairments” includes physiological, mental, psychological or physical diseases, disorders or conditions. Examples of major life activities are self-care, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and communication.
- Describe how the accommodation/modification requested is necessary to afford the person the opportunity to access housing, maintain housing, or for full use and enjoyment of the housing. Be sure to use words like: “necessary,” “essential,” “prescribed”; when describing why the condition creates a need for the accommodation or modification, because housing providers must make only those accommodations or modification that are necessary. The role of the verifier is to establish that the need derives from the disability.
Important Note: Revealing a diagnosis puts your client at risk of additional discrimination. Before naming a specific diagnosis, you need your client’s informed consent. If a client wants the diagnosis kept confidential, it is advisable to use a general description such as “mental condition” without naming the specific diagnosis.